The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

Local News

March 12, 2014

Court rules fired nurse should get unemployment

GROVE CITY — Commonwealth Court on Friday said a woman fired from a Grove City nursing home is entitled to unemployment compensation.

Orchard Manor had argued that Vicki A. McBurney committed willful misconduct, making her ineligible for benefits.

The case has traveled through several layers of appeal.

McBurney was fired Feb. 22, 2013, as a registered nurse and was initially denied benefits.

McBurney appealed that decision to an unemployment compensation referee, who held a hearing.

Orchard Manor presented several employees as witnesses, including the nurse manager, who said she told McBurney Feb. 19, 2013, that employees were to watch their overtime and that she should leave.

Another nurse testified that McBurney told her on Feb. 21, 2013, that McBurney had hit her leg on a desk on Feb. 20, 2013, while being escorted out of her office due to her overtime.

A third nurse said she heard McBurney speaking loudly and was agitated about hurting her leg. A fourth nurse said she heard McBurney on Feb. 21, 2013, talking about wanting to punch someone because of what had happened the day before. A fifth nurse also testified that she heard McBurney make a reference to punching someone.

Managers said McBurney’s conduct, which included a threat, violated Orchard Manor’s policy on harassment and disruptive behavior, and one said she determined McBurney lied when she denied that anything happened.

The manager also said McBurney was not given a reason for her firing.

McBurney said she had no confrontation over her overtime on Feb. 20 and left the office that day despite having work to finish. She said she hit her leg on the desk as she was on her way out of her office and was shooed out the door by a manager.

She said she did not make a statement about punching someone.

The referee deemed Orchard Manor’s witnesses not credible and determined there was insufficient evidence that McBurney had violated a work rule. The referee said McBurney was entitled to unemployment compensation.

Orchard Manor appealed to the Unemployment Compensation Board of Review.

The board agreed that McBurney was entitled to benefits, while “in no way question(ing) the employer’s right to discharge” her.

Orchard Manor appealed to Commonwealth Court and a three-judge panel upheld the board’s determination.

Orchard Manor “asks this court on appeal, essentially, to reverse the board’s credibility determination,” said Judge Renée Cohn Jubelirer, writing for the panel.

“However, the board, as ultimate fact finder, has the power to make credibility determinations and to resolve evidentiary conflicts,” she said.

Commonwealth Court said “there is substantial evidence to support the board’s credibility determinations.”

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